Green Party argue that site of London City Airport should become a multi-use development, for homes and businesses
Date added: January 19, 2016
The idea of closing London City Airport and using the huge amount of land it takes up for more intensive, and useful, purposes is not new. A report was produced in April 2014 by NEF, setting out very persuasive reasons why this is not a crazy idea. Now Sian Berry, the Green Party Mayoral Candidate, has again suggested this. The plan she proposes is for the site, which is currently up for sale, into a new quarter for homes, businesses and innovative industries. The Greens propose a consortium with City Hall, councils, business and academia to buy the airport. They are urging potential purchasers to look seriously at the compelling business case for changing the use of the site. The land taken up by the airport, and land around it which is in the Public Safety Zone (for crash risk) and so cannot be used, could create far more economic activity, and far more jobs. This might amount to some 16,000 more jobs than the airport provides and add an additional £400 million to the UK’s economy. The land is in a key geographical location, and would be easy to link to transport networks. It could create thousands of new homes within easy reach of central London, helping to ease the housing crisis. As a writer from Estates Gazette says: “London is crying out for more big sites like this where mixed-use schemes can be built.” The site is wasted as a small airport – especially when Crossrail makes the trip from the Docklands area to Heathrow easy and fast. . Tweet
Sian Berry, Green Party candidate for Mayor, calls for the potential of east London to be fulfilled by changing London City Airport into a new quarter for homes and businesses.
Local Greens in Newham are proposing to form a consortium with City Hall, councils, business and academia to buy the airport, which is for sale, and replace it with a new city neighbourhood for housing and innovative industries.
They have also launched a petition to one of the potential purchasers, urging them to look at the compelling business case for changing the use of the site.
● City Airport is of negligible importance to Britain’s aviation – it ranks 15th among UK airports and carries just 1.5% of all UK airport passengers.
● But it is holding back London’s economic potential, undermining the designated enterprise zone in the airport’s immediate vicinity, and causing untold health and environmental problems to thousands of local residents.
● If the site were freed for other use it could be used to create at least 16,000 more jobs than the airport provides and add an additional £400 million to the UK’s economy.
● It could also be used to create thousands of new homes within easy reach of central London, easing both the housing crisis and pressure on our groaning transport system.
● So if the land were used sustainably for innovative businesses, residential areas, leisure and cultural facilities and shops – it would go a long way towards solving many of London’s problems at the same time.
Currently, City Airport is for sale by its owners, Global Infrastructure Partners. The price of buying the airport is approximately £2 billion. 5 Local Greens in Newham are making the case for the buyers of the airport to close it.
Investment from City Hall has been pledged by Green Party candidate for Mayor of London, Sian Berry. Local authorities looking for land to build affordable housing are also likely to be interested in becoming part of a consortium, as well as businesses and academic institutions who could locate new jobs in the area, and developers and housing associations who could build new houses.
A stake in the area for Londoners
Sian Berry says that funding through City Hall would include opening up cooperative style investment to local people and Londoners as a whole, enabling people to have their own stake in the area’s development.
An appeal to the current bidders
Campaigners have also started a petition to potential bidder Allianz, a German 6 company which has recently declared it will divest its holdings from the coal. If the 7 company bought the airport and joined forces with the proposed consortium, this would match up with its stated commitment to reduce its investments in fossil fuelbased industries
The airport today
The site is currently taken up with runways and airport buildings, and is ideal for the kind of development the Green Party wants to see on public land across London.
Our vision for this extraordinary site is of the site broken up into smaller plots, with a range of tenures for housing, including non-profit models such as co-operatives, cohousing, community land trusts and self-build, sitting alongside innovative businesses.
Open community space, food growing and green energy generation would be integrated throughout the site.
A new report [April 2014] from the New Economics Foundation (NEF) makes the case for closing London’s City Airport and redeveloping the site to create jobs, boost local business and build new homes:
City Airport creates little value – despite occupying 500,000 square metres at the heart of London, its direct contribution to the UK economy in 2011 was £110m – less than a fifth of the nearby ExCeL Exhibition and Conference Centre.
City Airport costs jobs – the airport has never delivered on initial jobs promises and its safety crash zone limits business development across a 3 mile radius. The extra 1500 jobs from current plans to expand City Airport compare poorly with the 9,000 jobs expected to result from the nearby Silvertown Quays development.
Local residents bear all the costs but reap none of the benefits – the average salary of a London City Airport passenger is over £90,000, while 40% of Newham residents earn less than £20,000. 18,000 local residents suffer high levels of noise pollution and poor air quality.
London transport no longer needs City Airport – City Airport’s passengers account for just 2.4% of London’s total flight demand, and its numbers could be readily absorbed by Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted By 2019 Crossrail will allow City workers to reach Heathrow in just 30 minutes.
I have to say I quite like the idea. London is crying out for more big sites like this where mixed-use schemes can be built. And as far as air capacity is concerned the City airport really is a small contributor to that pie.
Say the site was bought for £2bn by a party wishing to cease its current use and instead build what will essentially be a new town.
The site equals 500,000 sqm, according to the Greens (possibly more if you reclaim some of the land like Canary Wharf). Let’s take the 500,000 sqm though (50 hectares), that’s around £40 million per hectare. Sounds a lot, (which it is), but for comparison King’s Cross Central is 27 hectares and when fully built out will provide 8m sq ft of new space.
Lets assume City Airport was built out to a slightly higher density (no limit on height any more as the airport’s gone!), therefore providing 16m sq ft across its 50 hectares and the price paid was indeed £2bn; that would reflect a price of £125 per sq ft. £2bn doesn’t seem so much now does it.
It’s obviously a huge capital investment and unlikely to attract any serious offers from the private sector, but as shown the sums could add up for a big player from China or the Far East.
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City Airport is a blight on London – polluting children’s lungs in the local area and speeding up global warming. We desperately need the land it takes up to build housing, schools and space for small business.
German-based insurance company Allianz has expressed an interest in buying the airport. This large financial institution has recently divested from coal. It would be hypocritical of them to run such a polluting facility. We urge Allianz to close the airport and turn it into less risky, more friendly affordable housing and facilities for small businesses.